No. 3: Mash the gas pedal against a resilient Wolves team
Despite being winners of just two of their first seven games, the Minnesota Timberwolves have proven to be a resilient, spirited team under Ryan Saunders. Just to list the ledger, the Wolves have come back from: a 12-point second half deficit against Detroit to win, and rallied from 16 down to take a lead against Denver a few nights ago, before coming up just short.
Tonight’s opponent, the Portland Trail Blazers, have proven that there are exploitable leaks in their ceiling, surrendering a 20-point advantage against Chicago just two nights ago. The Blazers are more than capable of running up the score in a hurry. But that’s only half the battle.
During the 2009 Western Conference Finals — the one most associated with the legend of Carmelo Anthony — Chauncey Billups probably said it best in likening basketball to boxing. One can dominate a round up until the final seconds, and still lose a round on the scorecards if they allow the opponent to chip away and tee off.
Holding leads and blowing them in comical fashion has become sort of a trend in this Blazers era. This year, they haven’t put together enough of a sample size to judge them, but going off what we do have in the Bulls loss, it’s a troubling development.
So, how does one avoid it?
Put simplest, just don’t become the Houston Rockets. Take a look at what the Blazers did over the final seven minutes of their last game.
Portland got comfortable and stagnated their offense through isolations and 3-point shots instead of forcing the issue. We normally don’t see this type of thing on back-to-back nights, but in a season as weird as this, it’ll be something to keep tabs on.
The Timberwolves are the type of team that can expose it. They aren’t remarkably efficient, but they push the pace at breakneck speed, and on the right night, can beat most teams. Should Portland find a way to stay locked in over 48 minutes, they will find themselves with a 4-4 record.